My food lacks flavour (unless I add lots of fresh coriander)

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by badcook12, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. badcook12


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    Can't boil water
    Most of my food follows a generic recipe:

    The stove is on full:

    Mustard + Cumin seeds are added to oil

    Diced Garlic and ginger are added when the mustard seeds stop popping

    30 seconds later one chopped Onion is added to the mix

    Once the onion caramalises, I add 1/3 chopped capsicum (known as "bell pepper" in America) and one chopped carrot (small pieces)

    I now turn the stove down to a low heat.

    This would be my "base"

    For chili, I add this to two cans of tomatoes and two cans of chilli beans. I keep the chili boiling on low temperature, add some salt, pepper, and chili powder. At this point, there is very little flavour to the mix. So I add a lot of fresh coriander to save it.

    For a stir-fry, I essentially just add the "base" to fried rice (and meat if I have any). I then try it, there is very little taste, so I add tons of fresh coriander.

    Am I doing something wrong? Why does everything I make have no taste until I add the frsh coriander? This is very frustrating for me.

    Fresh coriander is also very expensive... I would appreciate any suggestions.

    I started cooking about two weeks ago.

    I like curries mostly.

    My favourite dish is chicken biriyani. The biriyani I buy always has a strong taste of cumin seeds - I really don't understand why my food doesn't (I add over a teaspoon of cumin seeds to my food).

    Thank you for any help.
  2. chicagoterry


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    Home Cook
    A teaspoon of cumin seeds for a full recipe of chili or curry is not nearly enough. Get out the tablespoon and try again. Taste as you go. I'd also suggest ground cumin as finding whole seeds in a dish in large quantities can be unpleasant.

    Roasting whole cumin seeds in a dry skillet until they are fragrant, then grinding them is worth the extra effort but not essential.

    Also, add the ground spices (not the salt) to the "base," stir them around, then let them fry until they are fragrant, then add the tomatoes or whatever.

    You may also need more salt. Salt has a way of "waking up" flavors. Add it last and adjust accordingly.

    Lots of ginger and garlic are pretty essential ingredients in most Indian dishes. (Although there are sects that forego garlic and onions.) So are hot chilies.

    I'd suggest getting an Indian cookbook from the library and reading it to see how things go together. There is a lot of "layering" of flavors. Curries usually have a lot of different spices in them. Often there is also a "tadka" or "chaunk" added at the last minute to Indian dishes. Seeds and sometimes curry leaves are fried in oil or ghee in a separate skillet and the whole pan of oil and seeds is poured into the dish right before serving.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  3. bughut


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    Professional Chef
    That is a terrific base for many dishes Badcook, but i fear you may be diluting it far too much. You are adding 2 tins of tomatoes which need to be reduced. As you've only been cooking 2 weeks maybe you dont know this term. Let the tomatoes cook gently in the base till they are reduced by about a third. This will intensify the flavour.

    Also add some ground cumin to the mix too. If you want to taste it, as ChicagoTerry says, you really dont have enough (Dont add more whole seeds)...A heaped teaspoon should do it and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar for each can of tomatoes will take away any bitterness. Also a teaspoon of ground coriander (which partners cumin so often) would be a great addition.

    Are you draining the beans? If not then you're diluting you're tasty base base even more.

    Again, I agree with Terry, salt could be the problem...Wait till the tomatoes have reduced and you've added extra spices and if it's still not right for you add some salt. A wee pinch at a time till you love it, 'cos the ingredients you have there should be making a scrumptous sauce.

    Good luck
  4. colin


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    At home cook
    Great advice above.  Just to add.

    How much garlic and ginger?  If I was flavoring that much wet ingredients, it would chop a whole head of garlic and four or five inches of nice fresh ginger root.

    For your fresh chili pepper, what are you actually using?  It depends on where you are, but you generally want those little green flavorful chilies, not bell peppers.  Where are you?

    There's also a reason why a lot of Indian dishes have a final "chaunk" (or tadka etc. depending on your regional inclination) -- that is, a little oil and spices fried up separately and added right at the end of cooking - you get an extra freshness and bite that you don't get from the long-cooked spices.
  5. badcook12


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    Can't boil water
    Thank you for your replies.

    I was only using about 5 pieces of garlic maximum. I would add ginger at a ratio of 2 (garlic):1 (ginger). After reading Colin and bughut's post, I increased the amount of garlic and ginger considerably, and my food tastes a lot better. Thank you. Next time I make chilli, I will increase the amount of all the constituents of my base.

    I use fresh green chilli and bell pepper. I use bell pepper simply because I have read that the base of any Cajun style food is: onion, bell pepper, and celery - "the holy trinity".

    I will allow the canned tomatoes to reduce. I had been serving the chilli as soon as the the canned tomatoes and chilli beans had heated up.

    I really like cumin seeds, is it still worth buying ground cumin? I am always pleased when I get a whole cumin seed in my mouth.

    I am from New Zealand.

    I also like chilli by the way (as well as curry).

    Today I bought some Fennel powder. I may try to make a curry with it.

    Thanks for all your help.